April 11, 2011: Markey Leads Call on EPA to Speed Up Action on Dioxin

Calls for release of long-overdue health assessment of toxic chemical

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) along with 72 members of Congress today sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson requesting the finalization and release of the long delayed health assessment of dioxin. Dioxin is the name given to a group of toxic chemicals that are released as a byproduct of industrial processes and have the ability to accumulate in the food chain and remain in the environment for years. Exposure to dioxin causes a wide range of health impacts and has been associated with delays in motor skills and neurodevelopment in children, as well as impacts on hormones that regulate growth, metabolism and reproduction. Dioxin has also been classified as a human carcinogen. According to the Centers for Disease Control dioxins are present in the blood of 95 percent of Americans.

Almost 40 years ago we called a code red on Agent Orange and dioxin. Despite worldwide agreement about the toxicity of these chemicals and their persistence in the environment, EPA still has yet to release its findings on how dangerous these chemicals are to public health,” said Rep. Markey. “This much-needed assessment should not languish at the EPA as long as this dangerous chemical lasts in our food chain. The EPA should release its report without further delay.”  
 
“American children and families are already being exposed to unsafe levels of dioxin, and therefore, the EPA should finalize and release their long-delayed study on dioxin as soon as possible,” said Lois Gibbs, Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice.  “Finalizing the EPA's dioxin report is essential for a strong, coordinated state, federal and industry effort directed at protecting Americans from this unnecessary toxic chemical.”
 
The EPA completed its first health assessment of dioxin in 1985, finding that the cancer risk to humans from dioxin exposure is by far the highest defined for any man-made chemical. This finding was challenged by the industries whose operations would be affected by any limits on dioxin releases into the environment. EPA subsequently began a review of the health impacts of dioxins that has been in process for more than 20 years. During this time both the World Health Organization and the National Toxicology Program have classified dioxin as a human carcinogen.

The most toxic form of dioxin, a compound known as TCDD, was made notable as the contaminant of Agent Orange and released in high volume during the industrial explosion in Italy known as the Seveso disaster. Dioxins were also behind the evacuations that occurred in Love Canal, New York and Times Beach, Missouri.

According to the EPA, over 90 percent of human exposure to dioxin occurs through the diet. Dioxin has also been found in breast milk and in blood samples taken from newborns. Because of the persistence of dioxin, it has been targeted for international phase-out by a treaty signed by 170 nations across the world.

The letter to Administrator Jackson can be found HERE .

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May 16, 2011: Response from EPA can be found HERE .